It is written:
“among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” (Ephesians 2:3)
The Bible here says of the Ephesians that they were “children of wrath.”
Does this teach the Calvinistic idea of total hereditary depravity?
No, it doesn’t.
Look carefully at the word “nature” that is used here. This word can have different meanings, depending on the context. Joseph Henry Thayer has well written that the word “nature” (from the Greek phuis) can often mean, “a mode of feeling and acting which by long habit has become nature” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, E-Sword Edition). That is very clearly its’ meaning in this passage. Notice that the ones under consideration had WALKED according to the “prince of the power of the air;” they had LIVED in their own sins and transgressions. These were people who had willingly addicted themselves to the sinful delights of the culture in which they lived.
This passage is not talking about little babies being under the wrath of God because they were born into the world! It speaks of people falling under the wrath of God because they choose to reject Him and defied His Word. Is this not made clear throughout the rest of Ephesians?
Ephesians 2:5-even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
Ephesians 4:17-24-This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
What was wrong with Paul? Didn’t he know that the Ephesians had been the enemies of God because of the sin of Adam? How could he remind them of their own sins and somehow overlook or ignore the sin of Adam that had been passed on to them? He had a perfect chance here to teach them about original sin and total depravity!
Yet he did not teach them of these doctrines, because they are an invention of demons (1 Timothy 4:1-5), and not of God.
Paul’s use of the word “nature” shows clearly that he is discussing the nature which a person enters into when choosing to live in rebellion to the Lord. It is a twisting of this passage to suggest that he is talking about innocent babies and small children born into the world.
As another researcher has noted:
“And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”–Eph. ii: 1,3. The reader may, if he pleases, examine the context. 1. Dr. Clarke shows conclusively that the word rendered nature, in this passage, often means, in classic use, second nature,–as when we say, “habit is a second nature.” It also, according to the Doctor, often signifies “certainly, truly.” And he says, on Rom. ii: 14, where the Gentiles are said to “do by nature the things contained in the law,” “I rather think that this is its sense here;” “for when the Gentiles, which have not the law, truly, or in effect, do the things contained in the law.” And on the passage under consideration he says, “the words in the text have often been quoted to prove the doctrine of original sin; but though that doctrine be an awful truth, it is not, in my opinion, intended here. It is rather found in the preceding words, the lusts of the flesh, and the desires of the flesh and of the mind. The apostle appears to speak of evil habits, as when we say “habit is a second nature.” And to the same effect is the testimony of Dr. M’Knight. “In the passage under consideration,” he says, ” nature is that second corrupt dead nature, which men form in themselves by habitually indulging vicious inclinations; for the apostle speaks of men being by nature children of wrath, as the effect of having their conversation in the lusts of the flesh.” Thus the reader will perceive that we have learned doctors on our side, who, although they are the uncompromising advocates of hereditary total depravity, yet cannot believe that the passage under consideration has any reference to that doctrine….“3. The phrase “dead in trespasses and sins,” strongly favors the view we have taken of this subject. It was not Adam’s sin, in the singular, in which these Gentiles were dead, but “in trespasses and in sins,” in the plural? The death which they had died, and the wrath of which they had become the subjects, are not represented as being the consequence of one sin but of many sins; and, therefore, the consequence of their own sins. By “walking according to the course of this world,”–“according to the prince of the power of the air,” the universal tempter, of whom I have several times spoken, and “having their behavior in the lusts of the flesh “–the appetites and propensities of the animal nature–they died in sin, and became the subjects of the righteous wrath of the Almighty. There is divine equity in this view of the subject–a something in which the soul reposes, trusting in, and admiring the wisdom and the goodness, as well as the justice, of the great Creator.” (Aylett Raines, A Refutation Of Hereditary Total Depravity Or The Chief Corner Stone Of Calvinistic And Arminian Sectarianism Removed, 34-35 (Kindle Edition); Paris, KY)
Thus we find yet another passage of Holy Scripture which has been twisted by our Calvinist friends to try and teach the horrible doctrine of original sin or total hereditary depravity. A simple study of context reveals that the Word of God teaches nothing akin to such a terrible idea.